Lockheed Martin and NASA’s N+2 jet could cut cross-country flight times in half. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)
New York to Los Angeles in just over two hours? Passenger jets that fly faster than the speed of sound without that annoying sonic boom?
That could become reality thanks to two projects that aim to bring supersonic planes back to commercial air travel.
Lockheed Martin is working with NASA on a design called the N+2, an 80-passenger jet capable of cruising at Mach 1.7 (1.7 times the speed of sound).
But what about that loud sonic boom you get when an airplane exceeds the sound barrier? Lockheed Martin and NASA are working hard to lower the boom, so to speak. They say their proposed new jet will be 100 times quieter than the Concorde, the supersonic passenger jets that flew transatlantic routes from 1969 until they were grounded in 2003.
The supersonic Concorde flew from 1969 to 2003. (Photo: AP)
A quieter jet would allow the N+2 to fly at supersonic speeds on cross-country routes as the FAA, concerned about sonic booms going off over sleepy U.S. suburbs, currently bans civilian planes from going all “Danger Zone” in American airspace. Lockheed Martin says their new jet would cut cross-country flight times in half.
A rival supersonic jet development project is underway in Reno, Nevada, where European aircraft maker Airbus is working with American firm Aerion on a new, fuel-efficient plane for business clients. The 12-passenger Aerion AS2 will fly at 1,217 mph (which is almost as fast as the Concorde, which flew at 1,350 mph). That would take you from New York to London in three hours and from Los Angeles to Tokyo in six.
Aerion’s AS2 (Photo: Aerion)
Since the AS2 would do most of its flying over oceans, its designers aren’t as concerned with loud sonic booms. The AS2’s big innovation is fuel efficiency, with new wings that are said to reduce drag by 20 percent.
The makers of the AS2 plan to deliver their first plane in 2022 while Lockheed Martin hopes to have the N+2 flying in 2025.